Photo project explores emotions behind masks / Reparation committee gets green light

It's Tuesday, May 4th.

Hey there, San Francisco. 

On Monday, California formally adopted the CDC’s new guidance on mask-wearing, which means if a person is fully vaccinated, they no longer need to cover up outdoors (unless in a large crowd). Those not fully vaccinated are still expected to wear masks outside if they come within six feet of another person, and everyone, regardless of shot status, should mask up for indoor activities, the state said

San Francisco subsequently accepted the updates on Monday as well, which means with nearly 50% of San Franciscans over 16-years-old having received both shots and 72% having received at least one shot, we’re probably going to start seeing a lot of people walking down the sidewalk without wearing a mask. And that’s going to be… weird. 

So it was good timing to catch up with my friend and local Bay Area photographer Jim Erickson, who’s been thinking a lot about masks in recent months. In his latest photo project, called Unseen Menace [some photos include nudity, as a heads up], Erickson had actors and locals in his hometown of Dillon Beach pose wearing World War II-era gas masks. He then traveled to Sayulita, Mexico and Medellín, Columbia and asked people on the street to do the same. 

The result was photos that look otherworldly.

Erickson said that he hoped to capture “the importance of breadth” and “that we’re actually frail creatures.” He also wanted to express what’s lost when people wear masks. 

“You become more separated. There’s a barrier between you and the other person,” Erickson said. “You can’t see the expression on their face. So I think the mask separates us at a time when we really need to be coming together.”

Of course, discussion around mask-wearing is a hot-button topic, even as requirements ease. Erickson himself called it a “radioactive subject matter.” Still, as a photographer, he felt drawn to the project. “I think that an artist’s role in society is to question authority, to be a little defiant,” he said. 

Personally, I can’t help but wonder what we will think of these photos 20 years from now. What memories will they bring back for us about these strange times? What emotions will they stir up? 

For Erickson, he thinks the feelings conveyed in his recent series are some combination of “lonely, isolated, fearful, foreign, [and] alien,” which he said, “are all emotions that we have in us at the ready.” 

And with that… onto some news… 

The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve a 15-member committee tasked with exploring the possibility of a reparations program in San Francisco for Black residents who descended from enslaved people. 

The Chronicle’s Shwanika Narayan wrote that the committee will “examine how slavery, segregation, redlining, predatory financial practices, and other social and political ills contributed to the mistreatment and subsequent wealth gap and other disparities affecting Black people in the city.” Narayan also said that San Francisco was “the first [city] of its size to take such a concrete step” in considering reparations. 

The committee will have 24 months to draft a final plan. 

“We were brought here against our will,” Supervisor Shamann Walton, who proposed the reparations committee last year, told the Chronicle. “We were forced to work under inhumane conditions, not allowed to own property, not allowed to go to school — the list is long. The lingering effects of those inequities have spilled over generations.”

Quick bits: 

  • 🏡 The home of the first same-sex couple to legally marry in San Francisco (Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin) will become a city landmark, the Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday. (Chronicle

  • 🐠 The California Academy of Sciences will resume its NightLife series starting on Thursday, May 13, which means you can soon drink again amongst the aquariums and Claude, the albino alligator. (Datebook

  • 🍳 The popular brunch pop-up Hilda and Jesse has secured a permanent space in North Beach, which is expected to be a “breakfast all day” restaurant. (SFist

  • 🎉 Valencia Street is getting lit up! In an effort to bring shoppers back, local merchants and community members have pitched-in to string temporary lights along Valencia Street, between 14th and 24th. An event this Friday will kick off the project, complete with a “procession down the length of the lights with music, dancing, and art,” according to its Eventbrite page. (Eventbrite

And finally… We all know the medical students at UCSF are highly talented, but did you know they could dance and sing? Check out this incredibly choreographed video put together to welcome UCSF’s newly admitted students. 

That’s all for today! Any tips or story ideas, I’d love to hear them: And as always, I’d love for you to share The Minute with friends and family and anyone you think would enjoy it. 

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Have a great night and see you tomorrow! - Nick B. 

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